Colt’s XSE Commander lives up to its legacy

In my latest firearms adventure, I tested Colt’s 04012XSE Commander, a 4.25-inch barrel version of the M1911 style .45 ACP handgun. My Commander shot well, handled well and was equally at home for uniform and non-uniform duty. Colt has a reputation...


In my latest firearms adventure, I tested Colt’s 04012XSE Commander, a 4.25-inch barrel version of the M1911 style .45 ACP handgun. My Commander shot well, handled well and was equally at home for uniform and non-uniform duty. Colt has a reputation for superior quality control, and the fit and finish of this gun could be compared to guns that cost hundreds more.

The Colt XSE series, which includes the Government, Commander and Lightweight Commander model handguns with common features like front and rear slide serrations, checkered double diamond rosewood grips, an extended ambidextrous safety, a three-hole adjustable aluminum trigger, and enhanced hammer and low profile white dot sights. The grip safety has a generous upswept portion with a narrow combat-style beaver tail.

I prefer this barrel length to the M1911’s full-length, 5-inch barrel. The shorter slide is ideal for pancake style holsters because the seated user doesn’t have a muzzle pushing up the belt line or the butt twisting the trunk. It has the advantages of the 5-inch barrel, including respectable velocities from duty cartridges. There is enough sight radius for well placed hits and enough forward weight to control muzzle flip.

During testing I ran several different brands of ammunition: .45 ACP for law enforcement duty generally ranges between 180-230 grains. There are lighter options out there, but even extreme velocity bullets like the CorBon DPX cartridges run 185 grains. The Commander appeared to prefer the 200-grain Hornady +P (Hornady 9113) cartridge, an excellent choice for duty. Groups were generally between 2.5 and 3 inches at 25 yards, an acceptable accuracy for a duty gun. The most accurate bullet/cartridge combination I fired was the one I cooked up in my garage using my own 185-grain bullet mould and some AA#5.

I favor the .45, especially M1911 style .45s. The initial concept to replace an “anemic” cartridge with a more effective one for military duty was born out of an immediate and tangible necessity. No one has ever complained about the inherent effectiveness of the .45 ACP.

The M1911-style .45 is optimal for concealed carry because the single stack magazine design and flat slide make it easy to carry discreetly. Most law enforcement users don’t have the luxury of being able to test a polymer double stack pistol side by side with an M1911-style pistol. I do. Let me try to describe the difference: The double stack gun usually has a wide backstrap, simply because it is fatter. This does a good job controlling the recoil force. The Colt Commander is heavier and thinner than polymer guns. It uses design, forward weight and the ability for most users to get more gun in the hand to control recoil. Many officers who cannot use the wide grips, which change the length of pull on the trigger, like the Commander.

I favor Colts. This is not one of these “full disclosure” statements. Colt handguns are a prevalent topic for collectors because they’re Colts. The name conjures visions of fine finishes and silky triggers. I own an old Colt, too. It was made in 1938 and I shoot about 2-2500 rounds through it annually. When I invite a guest to our range, I let them shoot my Colt. I can attest to Colt reliability. The Commander I tested here shares this legacy and quality.

This gun does not masquerade as a “show” or a target gun. It did its best work in rapid fire combat shooting sequences, which is its intended purpose. Using the same Hornady TAP ammunition, I shot multiple target drills with magazine changes. At 10 yards I was able to print some sub 2-inch groups. With an empty weight of 38 ounces and the M1911 feel and balance, this gun controlled the heavy bullets nicely.

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